Widowed, Divorced & Separated

The Center for Family Life Formation offers support groups and events for widowed, divorced and separated individuals.

Do I Need to Apply for an Annulment?

You should apply for an annulment if you are:

  • A divorced Catholic who is now civilly remarried outside the Catholic Church and wishes to have his/her union validated
  • A divorced Catholic who would like to remarry
  • A divorced non-Catholic who is now civilly remarried outside the Catholic Church to a Catholic
  • A divorced non-Catholic who would like to marry a Catholic
  • A divorced Catholic who is thinking about dating


A declaration of nullity (an annulment) is a statement by the Catholic Church that at the time two people were married, something essential was missing that prevented a valid marriage bond from forming. In order for marital consent to be considered valid, the following must be true:

  • Both parties must have the capacity to make such a commitment and to fulfill the obligations of marriage;
  • Both parties must intend to enter marriage as the Church understands marriage; and
  • Both parties must have knowledge of the person they are marrying.

A declaration of nullity is granted only when it can be proven that some judicial defect rendered a particular marriage not valid, despite all outward appearances, despite good faith of the partners and despite the procreation of children subsequent to the wedding. A declaration of nullity is not a divorce; it is a statement that the bond of marriage, as understood by the Church, was never created. 

The process evaluates and examines the marriage for the necessary elements of a valid union: permanence, fidelity, true companionship and love of the spouses and openness to bearing and educating children.

How Do I Apply for an Annulment?

Step 1: Contact your pastor, annulment sponsor or the marriage tribunal. You will need a complete petition, a copy of the marriage license, a copy of the divorce decree and baptismal certificates for both parties in the marriage.

Step 2: Petition is forwarded to the tribunal. The tribunal will decide if it has the competency to hear the case, then either accept or reject the petition. If accepted, the tribunal will assign an auditor and a judge to the case. The auditor helps the Church find the truth; the judge sets the grounds or the reasons why the validity of the marriage is being challenged.

Step 3: The Respondent is contacted. The Respondent has a right to read testimony, provide testimony and provide witnesses.

Step 4: Evidence Gathering

Step 5: Publication of the Acts

Step 6: Valid or Invalid Decision

Due to the great number of cases considered and the requirements of canon law, an exact timeframe for the annulment process cannot be specified. The process often takes approximately 18 months.

How Much Does an Annulment Cost?

There is no fee.


Retrouvaille is a two-phase experience for couples experiencing marital problems, including those who are considering marriage separation and those who are already separated or divorced that want marriage help. Some couples come to Retrouvaille during the initial signs of a marriage problem. Other couples are in a state of despair and hopelessness when they attend. 

Phase 1: During the first phase, the couple spends a weekend away, listening to presentations and reflecting on and discussing what they learn privately. The weekend is not a spiritual retreat, not a marriage encounter and not a marriage seminar. 

A team of three couples, and a priest or Christian minister, gives a series of presentations. The team presents communication techniques that enable couples to take a good look at different relationship areas and provides practical tools for improving marriage.

Phase 2: The weekend is followed by a series of six to 12 post-weekend sessions over the course of three months. Couples continue to learn how to rediscover a loving marriage relationship.

Register: To learn more or to register for a Retrouvaille weekend, visit www.retrouvaille.org.